April 2, 2007

Results of the Voting for the Top Ten Caribbean Books

Caribbean writersFirst, give thanks to all who participated in the voting for the "Top Ten Caribbean Books" which closed on Friday evening. The results have been very interesting and I've posted the raw data here: Results.

I have not ranked the books because as Frances-Anne pointed out, each book has its own audience and appeal. Overall, however, the books are fairly representative of the majority of readers of this blog: North American/Caribbean and between the ages of 25 and 55.

Here are the books:

A House for Mister Biswas by V.S. Naipaul.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Brother Man by Roger Mais.

In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming

Miguel Street by VS Naipaul

Minty Alley by CLR James

The Children of Sisyphus by Orlando Patterson

The Dragon Can't Dance By Earl Lovelace

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Sir Vidia had two books in the running, A House for Mr. Biswas and Miguel Street, and three of the books were written by women. I couldn't help but notice the thread of social realism that connects some of these works. If you notice any other similarities or you'd like to comment on the process or the books, please leave a comment.

I've also made a comparison between this list and my choices, and five out of the ten are on my Top Ten List. I could have had six, but Danticat's, The Dew Breaker, is a much richer book in terms of exploring Haitian culture and my relationship with the characters was far more complex. I was more willing to empathize with the characters in The Dew Breaker than with Sophie in Breath, Eyes, Memory for whom I could feel only sympathy.

And this is a crucial difference and perhaps Edwidge's breakthrough in what the booksellers call "minority" or "World Literature" which usually posits race, gender and class as the cause of suffering, and begins from a premise of victimhood rather than having a central character as John Gardner states in The Art of Fiction, " [Who] is struggling for his or her own goals" (65).

In The Dew Breaker, the cause of the character's suffering is not because she is female and Haitian, but is caused by a discovery about her father which is complicated by the fact that she is female (a daughter) and Haitian. These complications work against her discovering the truth because she is a doting daughter and Haitian society is closed to inquiry about subjects such as the Ton-Ton Macoutes. This is what makes a fiction like The Dew Breaker "universal" because Danticat book explores the relationship between a father and daughter, and ranks as "world class" literary fiction.

For more on this, look out my upcoming post this Wednesday(4/4/07): "Desire, The Secret, and Literary Fiction."


I've just published four poems, including "poltergeist or the duende's gift," over at the Concelebratory Shoehorn Review.




eemanee said...

i noticed Love in the Time of Cholera didn't make the Top 10 list either. Because people don't consider Gabriel Garcia Marquez a Caribbean writer? or because the novel is originally in Spanish?

Five of my favourite books made the list. Some of the books i haven't read like Minty Alley by CLR James.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear eemanee,
I don't know why Love didn't make it either.
But if ah so, ah so.


the prisoner's wife said...

A book I would have voted for was Salt by Earl Lovelace. I LOVED the beauty of his prose.

Marlon James said...

I can't remember all of my list but I think I had three of them in there. It's a fine list even though I still wait for the day people when will stop adding Brother Man to lists because it's the Caribbeanly correct thing to do. I'm concerned, though not surprised that there were no latino writers, I mean Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dom Rep are Caribbean countries too.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Salt was a great book. There are so many books oout there that have been written by Caribbean writers that are well worth the admission ticket.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Marlon, I agree with you about the "Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dom Rep are Caribbean countries too." We are still thinking West Indies instead of Caribbean.

the prisoner's wife said...

true, Geoffrey (about Latino Caribbean countries).

also, what about Belieze? not quite Carribbean, but on the Sea & i love Beka Lamb. I may be a bit bias, considering my paternal side hails from Belize, but I often search for books about or set in Belize.

The country--as well as most former colonies--has such a rich and complex history, it's a wonder that more authors aren't finding acclaim stateside.

Jdid said...

not sure I voted to be honest but I much more preferred salt to dragon cant dance

a bit suprised no Austin clarke made the list too. actually no not that suprised but he is a master of writing realistic conversation.

If I had to go with a #1 from the list given I'd probably choose between lamming and miguel street although in all fairness i've yet to get into danticat

Actually there is one book I absolutely loved which very few folks seem to have read which is the True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson.